Monday, 17 September 2012

Exciting times, inspiration and a new venture

What a stimulating summer!

I have had a lovely jaunt round Northumberland and the Lake District, with a little peek at Hadrian's Wall in between.  I'm no travel blogger, so I won't go into great detail, but I will say that one of the highlights for me was visiting John Ruskin's home by Coniston Water.  It is intriguing to walk around the home of a writer and discover that he has his chair placed exactly where I would choose to write in that house, furniture I would have chosen, rooms decorated in a style that resonates with me.  Even his collections of 'treasures' were rather like mine - interesting stones, sea shells, quirky bits and pieces from visitors and friends, plus the odd item of monetary value.  Then the garden was fascinating, too.  Built climbing up a hill, its nooks and crannies opening into glades with interesting natural sculptures - my favourite being a series of beautifully-carved wooden hands rising from the earth expressing praising, or stretching, or praying. A perfect place to write.

The Northumberland coast was inspiring, too.  A great sense of peace and the beautiful rolling sound of the sea.  Long stretches of sand - all very restful, helping tension and urgency to wash softly away.

But, I had set out with eight copies of 'Losing Face' in the motorhome, fully intending to march into one or two bookshops with review copes, thus conquering the north of England with brilliant marketing strategies that would ensure a steady stream of visitors southwards in 100 years' time to visit the home of brilliant writer Annie Try and discover her special places to write.  Alas, it was not to be.  We did not come across one large bookshop and those we saw seemed 'too specific' or 'too upmarket' or 'not really fitting in with my marketing plan' or, in fact, anything else that covered my loss of nerve to go in!

Meanwhile, coming ever nearer was an opportunity to be more involved in the Association of Christian Writers.  I went to the longest committee meeting I've ever been to on Saturday and was offered a place on the committee to become the Local Writers' Groups/Regional Events Co-ordinator.  Strange really, as I was very honest and told the committee I was extremely time-pressured.  But hey, it's not my time, it's God's and this is an exciting opportunity to help others with their writing.  So, look out - here comes the brand new LWGREC! (Must do something about that cumbersome job title . . .)

But, wait.  First things first.  I shall review everything in my life to carve out the time the job needs.  Some things must stay - my psychology clients and the training that goes with being a good clin psych, my large family, my church work, my writing, my friends, my novel.  

But most importantly, I must always keep those times of quiet, reflection and inspiration that provide the sweet oils for my life to run smoothly. 

Annie Try

Thursday, 9 August 2012

I have a plan . . .

. . . and it goes like this:

Several reviewers have said that Losing Face should be on the National Curriculum.  I can't seem to find out how a book is considered for the NC, so I am going to start at the bottom and work up!
  • Yes, I have already started with pupils, who say they like the book and have talked to their teachers
  • I am sending out a review copy to each of those teachers who express any interest (within reason!)
  • I propose to go into schools to do readings - overcoming my fear of being too old to read the part of a 15-year old
  • I shall send a book to my old school.  They won't remember me, a few decades after I failed to achieve a great deal there, but it might encourage someone else who wants to write.
  • I am following up the suggestion from the lovely Kate of Children@Heffers and going into some Cambridge Schools - she said she will recommend me
  • I think I can track down at least one English Adviser who will be thoroughly lobbied
  • And I will certainly find a signed copy for Michael Gove!!
Giving away review copies may be a trifle expensive but those of you who have read my previous blogs may notice that there is not a single instance of walking into a bookshop in this plan.  So I shall save on stress as well as fuel as it's miles to anywhere from my home.  Bookshops aren't all bad; I have had a really positive response from Waterstones in King's Lynn, Heffers in Cambridge and Soham Books in - guess where? - Soham, but otherwise there has been nothing much to encourage me.

So, on with the new plan, and if that doesn't spread the message to those who need to hear, well, I have a plan B . . .

But that's a long enough blog for today.  Enjoy your reading and may all your writings land neatly in front of eager consumers.


Friday, 20 July 2012

'Losing Face' and gaining respect

It feels soul-destroying - walking into bookshops, book in hand, trying to persuade the manager to stock it.  I am assured this is the best thing to do and it has worked in three places, to be fair, but sometimes years of work is treated very dismissively.  Why is this?  Booksellers are the same people who benefit from a writer's hard work and may make a very tidy sum from the novel, for all I know.  I don't understand their attitude.

Now that I am trying to encourage bookshops to stock Losing Face, I am sorry I waited for a publisher and did not self-publish years ago.  For one thing, there is a little flurry of books about facial disfigurement around at the moment, whereas there was very nothing recent around when Losing Face was just finished.  So I am competing with established novelists.  Secondly, several places have asked me whether I will leave them some books on sale or return.  I can't do that, because my contract forbids me to sell them to the book trade, which in effect I would be doing.

Ah well, at least I saved money by finding a publisher which has made it easier to leave review copies.  And I am discovering which bookshops need persistent targetting because they are so good that they sell me a book or two while I am doing my pitch for my own!  And when managers or staff have read it and given me positive feedback, or even thanked me for coming in to show them my novel, it has helped to restore my self-respect.  Meanwhile I have messages coming in from people sharing my book with others because they liked it so much they want them to read it. 

Also, I can know without a doubt that my soul is certainly not destroyed - whatever it feels like!   So I shall lift my head high, follow what is the right path next and carry on pushing this strange, unsentimental, psychological, challenging and sometimes funny little offering until it is where my Soul-keeper would like it to be.


Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Still launching

I've had a busy time - but sadly not with writing! 

One of our sons, plus his wife and child, are temporarily living with us after a disastrous house saga involving two house moves in three weeks.    Meanwhile, the writing day I was organising, with some help from others, was a great success but left me exhausted.  At the same time, my day job intensified. Then there were (are!) a few things at Church that claimed (claim) urgent attention. 

This sounds like a list of excuses for my writing being at an all-time low, but somehow I have managed to set in place just enough to ensure Losing Face is gradually taking off.  I have a book event in Littleport on Saturday, when I will be 'presented' by Soham Books and hopefully sign many, many copies of LF.  I sold none at the Norfolk Christian Writers' Day, but nonetheless arrived home with one less copy than I took.  I expect someone will realise they owe me some money.  I don't think anyone connected me with the novel, as I was very busy running around and organising things (under my regular name, not my maiden name) and just FORGOT TO SAY!  Don't tell my publicist, but I am really not very good at self-promotion.

Despite my shortcomings, there seems to be a stealthy spreading of comments about the book across the Net, partly due to complimentary copies sent out by the aforementioned publicist.  A steady ripple of reviews and invites to do guest blogs flows into my inbox.   Sales are happening through Amazon and the bookshops.   Also, I have carried on becoming a minor local celebrity - the feature in the local paper was exactly right, with the main emphasis on the endorsement by two charities: Changing Faces and The Katie Piper Foundation.  The interview on Radio Norfolk went surprisingly well - apart from Stephen Bumfrey using my married name and not Annie Try.  Several reviewers have mentioned that this is an important book and should be on the school curriculum as well as read by adults, all of which has delighted me because I really want it to help people think.

My trips to Waterstones in Cambridge and Norwich have achieved nothing so far, but wasted review copies. However, on a very wet day, I dripped into Heffers (Cambridge) - a wonderful independent bookshop. The children's department manager read it, is very enthusiastic and is not only selling it but has asked me to talk in schools.  It is a very strange feeling to have all this praise for something I have made up.  It feels like cheating, somehow.  People ask me if it is exciting - it was, but now I really don't know - I feel as if I could be on the edge of something but may topple either way.

But it is all fine - I can hang onto my faith and I believe that God knows what's right for me and for Losing Face.  So it doesn't matter much whichever way I topple; like a wobbly toy I will regain my equilibrium!

May those who write be immersed in the joy of discovering beauty in their art and those who read enjoy great tales,


Sunday, 27 May 2012

Flowers, photos and incredible weather

Yesterday.  The garden looked fantastic - two gazebos on the lawn, plus a tent for the children's entertainer.  Croquet set out ready to play.  Beautiful bunting, zigzagging across between the trees, borrowed tables and chairs spread out in the leafy shade.  My family preparing the food in the background.  A sense of excitement.  The time had come.  My book launch celebration event.

It was a great day.  We sat in the sun and lazily chatted, drinking elderflower spritzers and even a little champagne.  Two teens from my family read from Losing Face and the local press sent a photographer.  People who said they would definitely come didn't, but others turned up who hadn't promised anything, which led to some long overdue reunions.  Flowers and cards arrived from friends.  There were no major disastors - the threatened power-cut was over before the guests arrived and I even managed to use the right names (for myself and the book buyer) when signing. 

Not everything was perfect; I have learnt not to make events so long or in such a large area that there is never a crowd, however many come.  And I really must work hard at not over-catering.  Even if everyone with an invite had come, there would still have been too much food.  Although it was good to share the party food that never left the fridge with those at church today. 

I have an interview on Radio Norfolk tomorrow and another one for the local paper later in the week.    Being in the limelight doesn't come naturally for me, but by God's grace I shall cope with this very necessary publicity.   It will be a few weeks before I can regain my writing time, especially as I am very busy with Norfolk Christian Writers too, at present, as we prepare for our first writing event, The Write Idea, on 16th June. (For details email )

Thank you to all my family and friends who worked so hard to make yesterday a success.  And thank you to all those who bought the book - I was so encouraged that people want to buy it.


Sunday, 6 May 2012

Carefully excited

I have discovered that, when recovering from a nasty bout of bronchitis, it is quite difficult to dance around with excitement without descending into a frantic coughing fit.  So I am blogging about it instead, to let you know that I am carefully excited about the enthusiasm for Losing Face from three sources - no four! What an answer to prayer.

The first is the local Waterstones.  A review copy was received very warmly and LF will now be stocked in King's Lynn, with a recommendation being written that can be accessed by other stores.  The second is the charity BAAF - some of you may remember I went with my sister Pat on a trek along the Great Wall of China (not all of it!) to support their work with children who cannot live in their birth families.  The issues for teenagers in the care system are a feature of Losing Face, so BAAF were pleased to receive a copy for review.

Then today I have had feedback from the CEO of Changing Faces.  He is so enthusiastic he is going to blog about it - but best of all he is going to recommend Losing Face to those who may benefit from it most.  Young people who have maybe had an accident that has left them with some facial scarring, or have struggled with adversity.

Finally, I coughed my way into Pilates at the end of the session on Friday, too ill to take part but just to let people know about the book.  I was really touched by the way these wonderful ladies responded, encouraging me, making suggestions about who else should know and which bookshops might put on a signing event. 

So thank you to all who are urging me on to publicise and not just hope the book will sell itself.  Especially thank you to Dominic James, my publicist who gently asks where I am sending my review copies - such a polite prod in the right direction - and to Sarah, my writing daughter-in-law, who quite firmly suggested I should go into Waterstones.  And, of course, thank you to everyone else who has encouraged me along the way. 

What have I learnt on this part of the writing journey?  Don't hide away - tell everyone even if it feels uncomfortable.  You may be surprised at the reaction.  If your book has a message that needs to be spread, follow the God-given opportunities and look-out for those that are yet to be revealed.

But then, hiding away does seem rather inviting, especially if with pen and paper or my laptop.  Mmmm . . . where can I go?   There's a problem with the heating in my study.  Airing cupboard, perhaps?  See you later.

Happy writing, reading and many blessings,


Friday, 23 March 2012

Non-writing writing time

It has been a strange block of time since I last blogged.  Writing has been a high priority on my weekly lists but has translated itself into all sorts of other projects - bits and pieces needed for Church, reports for work, going to someone else's reading to try to learn how to promote my writing, putting together an article, attending the Association of Christian Writers' Day and working on the equivalent for Norfolk Christian Writers.  Fortunately, another member of the group has put together a facebook page for NCW and has taken great strides in advertising the event.  But it took a whole designated writing day to look at shortlisted venues.  Once that was agreed I was enthused - so for much of the time since my mind has been filled with ideas on how and what to teach.

Then, of course, there has been time spent on spreading the word re Losing Face and planning for the day when I have to start 'selling myself'.  Only 64 days to publication!  Preparation has included a practice run reading an exerpt from my manuscript to my writing buddy; I thought that went better than expected and looked up at her with relief probably written all over my face.  I had thrown myself into the task, even trying to emphasise some bits with movement.  There was a pause while I waited for her comments.  Then very carefully she suggested that my previous thought of recruiting real teens to read it was an excellent idea.   Was I that embarrassing, I wonder?  It's a good job I wasn't reading from Dancing in the Dark - there's a lot of leaping about in that novel which certainly wouldn't have suited my great age and may have ended in tears.

So maybe it's okay that I haven't sat and scribbled.  I have learnt how not to read my manuscript, have gained the valuable insights of other writers, thought a lot about what we scribblers need to know and how to teach writing.  I'm sure it's all moulding me into some sort of shape.

Trouble is, I now look back at my work-in-progress, Dancing in the Dark, and I have literally 'lost the plot'.  But maybe when I have remembered who's who in the novel, thought about the characters I am trying to portray and filled in all the little missing links and details, I will find that this varied and interesting past few weeks has added a few different dimensions to my writing.

But before I go, here is the information you may need about the forthcoming Christian writers' day.  It is called The Write Idea  and will be held on 16th June 2012 in Norwich Central Baptist Church from 10am - 4pm.  It is open to all writers and will cover a wide range of genres.  Although it only costs £15 per ticket, it will be a really valuable day.  For further information please visit Norfolk Christian Writers on facebook, or email us at or

Happy scribbling,

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Twirls, whirls and graceful slides

As January quietly slides into February, my writing is picking up again after a foot-dragging time after Christmas.  Dancing in the Dark is now pirouetting gracefully towards its final bow.  In fact, the last chapter is written - I often write the best bits first.  The novel is turning out to be a little longer than orginally envisaged, so I still have two or three chapters to fill in the gap.  They are rather like those creams and toffees that everyone leaves in the bottom of the tin of Quality Street - not quite the treat I would like but being fairly satisfying to finish.
     After overcoming a little bump in plans for Losing Face (my original marketing lady is going on maternity leave!) all is ready to run smoothly under the expert guidance of my multi-tasking editor.  Now is the time for a lull before the rising whirl of activity as we work towards the publication date of 25th May.  I am toying with the idea of having a big launch party on 26th, at my home.  There is some uncertainty about this because I would like all my friends and family to populate the readings I will be doing in various bookshops, so I don't think I can expect them to attend both.  Or perhaps a party will stimulate their interest in seeing me doing a reading and book-signing? 
     But what next? With Dancing in the Dark reaching the editing stage, I need to be making decisions.  I have other novels waiting to be finished - only one of those is for the young adult market and that is extremely complicated.  The one with the most written so far needs some research which may be beyond me unless I travel very widely and the final one is only about 10,000 words so far, but is taking me on an interesting journey into crime fiction.
     So who knows?  Only the great Creator and Author of all Things.  There may be a new novel just bursting out of the wings of my imagination to take centre stage.
     Happy writing for those who are entrenched in that noble art and enjoy your reading to those who join us in our imaginery dance.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Tangled Writing

Here we are in 2012 with Christmas receding as a memory, only retrieved by baubles discovered shining under the sofa or when a Christmas pud from a hamper gift is served up thinly disguised as a fruity dessert for an ordinary Sunday.  Life begins to pick up its everyday rhythm, with normal tasks to be completed.
       I have a weekly list - to be fair it sometimes stretches into two, or even three weeks.  It becomes a glorious mess of arrows and loopy lines linking the different areas of my life: writing, church, psychology, home.  For example, those thank-you letters which await my attention, are they 'Writing' or 'Home'? And bits and pieces I write for Church - maybe even about counselling others, or a psychological article for a Christian magazine - where do I put those?
       But even within those items which definitely belong in 'Writing', there is a woven, tangled web.  One example: today I was looking up diseases.  It was research for my novel-in-progress, Dancing in the Dark, but the information is helping me to think about other work I am doing - particularly the pending 'Ask Angela' for Caring magazine.
       Then there are the two novels that are dominating my life at the moment.  Losing Face now has a publication date, 25th May (I am shouting this from the rooftops!) so my task is to move into my role as a published novelist including publicising it.  Meanwhile, I am working out the finer details of what happens to the same characters next, as I finish and edit Dancing in the Dark.  The two novels are dangerously merging into one in my mind, as I read backwards and forwards between them, seeking consistency.  But there is a bonus - out of their converging stories, the characters become even more 'real'.  I will just have to be careful to avoid lifting the curtain on Dancing in the Dark, when discussing Losing Face.
       So my prayer is that I will have wisdom day-by-day to become more organised to make good use of my time, yet accept, enjoy and discover the benefits from the chaotic, interesting, wonderful confusions of life.  
      Happy writing,